27 September 2007

ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY...

I love visitors… most anyways.

But there is a certain visitor that gets on my nerves…probably because I used to be that person.

This visitor… after 3 days of intense observation of the communities, culture and church… knows how to fix Africa…. in just 3 easy steps. I just smile and nod my head… I was there.

It’s like receiving parenting advice from a single person with no kids…

It would be like Monica and Chandler receiving marital advice from Joey or Ross…

This visitor may be a computer programmer, pastor, housewife or accountant in the US… but they are ready to make themselves the emperor of Africa… for Africa’s own good.

The conversation begins like this:

“You know what’s wrong with Africa?”

or

“You know what Africa needs?”

I laugh… inside…

You see the Western countries have sent 3.2 trillion dollars in aid to Africa… Every 4th car I see bears the initials UN… And we have more non-profit organizations than your city has Starbucks… we have 2 on every corner. But Africans are still starving, mostly uneducated and the church is still struggling.

So you think in 3 days your going to fix this mess… by all means come over… I know a few other like-minded people you can work with…

Many of these people decide to come over as missionaries… I smile. You see they have told their supporters that they are the next Martin Luther, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa… all wrapped in one…. I smile. But the problem is if you aren’t Martin Luther, Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa in your own country what makes you think that by moving half way across the world things will be different. Many of these people want to be reformers… and God Bless them for trying… but if you can’t manage your house, small business or church of 150 members how are you going to manage an entire continent… reform it, feed it, educate it and evangelize it in 5 years. It takes time to educate, it takes time to develop, it takes time to train and it takes time to understand what in the world you’ve gotten yourself into once you get off the plane...

Rome wasn’t built in a day… and neither will Africa.

2 comments:

Dan van Heerden said...

Excellent blog, love the comment about Friends...

So here are my two cents as a "native African"....

"You know what Africa needs?"
Jesus.... Just like the rest of the World.

Despite being poor, Africans are happier than most Westerners because you don't need money and stuff to be happy. The African culture is very different from Western, European and others, which cannot be gleaned and understood in a few days or even years. For one it is relational and community focused which influences every aspect of life.

With regard to short term teams, just as you wouldn't want somebody to come along and tell you what to do in your church and community, so you need to respect the people in the country that you are visiting. The focus for short term teams should be to learn from the culture and the people and help out where you can and not be the Rambo that saves the day.

Finally, Jesus didn't come to give everybody wealth and prosperity. Instead, He said that the poor will always be with us. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't give and do social upliftment. But the focus should be on declaring the gospel as our eternal home is much more important and we should be gathering treasures in heaven.

Flo Oakes said...

Oprah will fix Africa. Just you wait.

But seriously, I thought this was a great post, because I could see myself being the kind of person you describe ..going into a place like Africa and thinking I can fix it with a few thrift shop leftovers for orphans and a lot of good intentions.
It's interesting that there is not as much enthusiasm for fixing the mainstream church in America, as there is for fixing the 3rd world.

If we spent less money building media rooms and coffee shops in our churches, and more on the poor people who would be too intimidated to walk into such a church, perhaps we would begin to get things right...